The black eye

On my way back from a photo shoot yesterday, I stopped at a country restaurant for lunch.  It was a packed restaurant, but the waitstaff were moving quickly and all customers were greeted in plenty of time.  And I was hungry.  Food time it is.

I sat at the counter.  A young waitress – I didn’t get her name, but for the sake of this story we’ll call her Joan – took my order.  A nice hearty Sunday brunch with eggs, biscuits and gravy, wheat toast, and a diet cola.

And as I looked up from my menu …

I saw that Joan had a nasty bruise on her left eye.  A black eye.

And of course, now I’m thinking to myself … what do you do in a situation like this? Do you sit there and eat your food and say nothing, do you say to the waitress, “Hey, what the hell happened to your eye,” what do you do?

I looked around the restaurant for observational clues.  Joan was chatting with the other waitstaff and tablecleaners, nothing out of the ordinary.

But that still bothered me.

I’ve seen black eyes like that.  Those are the ones that you can’t cover up with mascara and concealer.

Was I misreading this?  Was I making too big a deal of this?  And so much of my brain was bouncing back and forth – one side of my brain saying, “Chuck, do you know what the acronym MYOB means?  It means mind your own business, you don’t need to get involved in this.”  The other side of my brain is saying, “Chuck, domestic abuse is not anything to ignore.  If you don’t say something, then what does that say about you?  That you’re complicit?”

That did it.  While Joan was at the other side of the restaurant, taking another order, I motioned to another waitress – one who looked as if she was in charge of the restaurant.

“Is everything okay, sir?”

“The food is delicious.”

“Okay.  Glad you like it.”

“But I want to talk to you about your waitress, Joan.”

“Is everything okay?”

“She’s a great waitress, very attentive – but I’m concerned.”  And I pointed to my eye.  “Is she okay?  Is everything all right?”

“Oh,” she replied.  “It was worse than that earlier this week.”

Ugh.  My heart sank.

“She tried to take the hardtop off her Jeep and it bumped into her, and popped her right in the face.”

“Hardtop?”

“Hardtop.”

“Okay, so it wasn’t – ” I motioned a punch into my hand – “because, well, there’s a lot of domestic violence out there in the world, and – ”

“Oh no,” the waitress said.  “She’s been having trouble with her Jeep for weeks, and they actually gave her a different Jeep as a loaner.  And she couldn’t get the hardtop off – and then bang it came off and landed right on her face.”

Great.  Now I really feel like crumbs.

So when Joan came over to clear my table and to give me my check, I said to her, “Look, I’m sorry, but I saw your shiner and I was concerned.  And forgive me if I’m being too intrusive, but we’re in a world of ‘if you see something, say something,’ and I’m just concerned that you were assaulted or something.”

“Oh this?” she said, pointing at her bruise.  “I tried to take the hardtop off this rental Jeep and it wouldn’t come off.  And I pulled and I pulled, and boom off it came -right into my face.  And it hurt.”

“Okay … you weren’t assaulted?”

“If my boyfriend ever raised his hands to me, he’d be pulling back bloody stumps, I can assure you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I didn’t mean to jump to conclusions.”

“It’s okay,” she said.  “I’ve heard worse.  But I do want my Jeep back, this rental is worse than what I’m driving now.”

“Maybe you should ditch the Jeep and get a Chevy.”

We both laughed.

As I paid my bill, I left an extra-large tip.  Both for her good service and to apologize for presumptions.

But you have to understand.  I’ve been through domestic violence.  I’ve seen it.  Heck, I’ve felt it.

And I’d rather be wrong – and apologize for being wrong –

Than to say nothing – and find out – too late – that I was right all along.